Sunday, March 31, 2019

Thinking About Jeanie

Jeanie and me in her office.

It's been hard to keep Jeanie off my mind since I heard she died. We went through a lot together. I first met her when Lucy was a baby and I pushed her stroller into Sweetwater asking for a waitressing job. Jeanie was nice enough, but I wasn't hired. 

I did find employment at The Boarding House in San Francisco. It was the early eighties and nightlife was wild. Cocaine was everywhere and people drank a lot. In fact, it was company policy. We had table tents that said there was a two-drink minimum per set. Guess who had to enforce the policy? The waitresses. You could order coffee or bubbly water, but you had to order something. 

When I started working at The Boarding House the place seemed to be thriving, although it closed a few months later. We had a run of Robin Williams stand up comedy shows. I think it was two shows a night for five nights. At any rate, it was a lot of Robin. He was in a wild phase and would come bother us in the waitress station. He was very funny and sort of annoying in a brotherly way. I've met a lot of musicians and entertainers and only asked two of them for their autographs. Paul McCartney and Robin Williams. Robin signed a cocktail napkin for baby Lucy. 

One night there was a double booking of Maria Muldaur and Dan Hicks. The Boarding House was not prepared for the onslaught of Mill Valley fans, who trekked across the Golden Gate Bridge to the show. We were seriously understaffed and as hard as I worked it was impossible for me to keep up. Ashtrays were overflowing, empty glasses were everywhere and the customers were drinking cocktails faster than I could deliver them.  At one point I realized Jeanie was in my station. I was mortified that she would think I wasn't a very good waitress and couldn't keep up with my section. 

Quite the contrary! Jeanie saw how hard I was working and decided she wanted to hire me after all. She started me off on Monday nights, which were busy enough in those days to need two waitresses. The bartender was Buddy, who was old school and scared me a little. It was a big night for drug dealers to stop by and people paying for drinks would literally drop cash out of their pockets. I always scanned the floor by the bar when the lights went up and boy, did I ever score. Many times I found money, often hundred dollar bills, on the floor. I was twenty-five years old and would work with Jeanie in various capacities, for the next ten years. 

You could tell when Jeanie had arrived at work, because before you could see her, you could smell her. She had a very distinctive scent. Maybe it was Shalimar. I can't remember. Jeanie was always perfectly put together. She was a clothes horse in a jeans and button down shirt with turned up collar, leather jacket sort of way. She had a dozen pairs of cowboy boots and wore them often. Her face was beautiful and shiny and her hair was never out of place, even at two in the morning when we were closing up after a long night. Jeanie had the most luminous, soulful, brown eyes. She loved the sun and frequently had a gorgeous, dark tan. 

I moved from working Mondays nights to working all the busiest shows for years, often six nights a week. I slung cocktails through two pregnancies. After I had my third daughter I'd had enough of nightlife and worked as Jeanie's assistant in the office in the afternoons. I also counted the cash registers and did the bank deposits. She trusted me. I even was a signatory on the Sweetwater checking account.

Jeanie was there when I met my husband, Robert Lindkvist, who spent some time working the door at the club. She came to our wedding. She provided a personal reference when Robert adopted my daughter, Lucy. We shared holidays. We laughed and cried over our kids. Her boys were probably 4 and 6 when I met them. I was there when she and Jay divorced and Jeanie moved on to new loves. 

Sadly, I was one of the many people Jeanie left behind when she moved away from Mill Valley. Even though it's been years since I've seen her, I can still hear her voice in my head. She had some great expressions. One of them was "Timing and Delivery." It meant that you could say something negative if you said it in the right way and even if you had something positive to convey, it wouldn't be received well if you didn't say it at the right time. Jeanie also taught me the best toilet training trick using M & M's, which Tro and Taylor called "emens". One M & M for pee, and two for poo. It was genius. My kids were out of diapers in no time. 

Jeanie was a lot of things to a lot of people, but she was a Mom above all else. How she loved those boys. She would have Peter Walsh come over to the house on Christmas Eve and read "The Night Before Christmas" to them. She took a lot of pleasure in attending their ball games, packing their school lunches and tucking them in when they were little. Later they liked to just hang out and talk. It's not easy to keep nightclub hours when you have kids. You get off work at three a.m. and then up with the kids in the morning. I know, because I was a Mom who kept the same hours. 

When Tro died it was a tragedy, but he'd been in some trouble over the years, so there was a bit of context. Tro was one of those kids who thought he could get by on wit and charm. Taylor was the "good" one. He could do no wrong. When he died it was unimaginable. All these years later it's hard to believe that Jeanie lost both her sons. 

Jeanie was a prolific note and letter writer. She would often type her notes, but sometimes they were handwritten. For a righty, she had the most distinctive backhand, loopy scrawl. I've been going through my file and reading some of the notes she sent to Robert and me over the years. She wrote letters about anything she had on her mind: music she loved, the noise complaints from the neighbors. She felt the Bill Graham memorial "token" in the Plaza was embarrassingly small. I'm sure she wrote a letter about that. 

As much as Jeanie was in the public eye at work, she really was an introvert. She valued her privacy and needed her down time to recoup her energy. I can relate. I'm the same way. Jeanie could also hold a grudge. For some reason she got annoyed with Mill Valley Market and for years, she refused to shop there. Even though her house was literally right down the street from the market, she would get in her car and drive across town to Safeway. She wouldn't spurn items from MV Market if someone else, like her kids, bought them, but she wouldn't go there herself. 

Usually, the musicians could do no wrong, but there were exceptions. A couple examples come to mind. Etta James cancelled shows at the very last minute several times and Ms. Patterson was NOT happy. The "At Last" singer was going to be booked last! There was also a problem with "Pride & Joy". The party band got their start at Sweetwater. They crammed onto the tiny stage and played every month or two for a long time. They built up a following and eventually branched out to other bookings. At a certain point they didn't want to play Sweetwater anymore. They said the stage was too small. Jeanie was frustrated and replied that the stage was the same size it always was. It was just that their heads were too big to fit through the door. 

Jeanie had a huge heart and was deeply loyal. She adored the musicians. I tolerated them. I'd been hanging out with musicians and bands since I was 16. I'd been with a drummer for 7 years. I'd seen a lot of the seamy underside up close with his band in Hollywood and when I worked at The Palms in San Francisco. There was a lot that wasn't pretty, but Jeanie didn't see it that way. She loved the music so much. She would book a great act and set her sights on the next performer on her wish list. Then she'd make that dream come true over and over again. 

Basement Guest List
I was always working so hard during the best shows, but there were many standouts over the years. Dennis Quaid and his band brought squealing women lined up the sidewalk. The John Goddard private parties were legendary and the hottest ticket in town. I loved the Neville Brothers. Zachary Richard was amazing. Austin de Lone and whomever he was playing with, and all the Jug Band nights at Christmas time. John Lee Hooker, Robert Cray, Harry Connick, Jr. and guest appearances by Bonnie Raitt were some highlights. 

My favorite show of all was on a Sunday afternoon. Elizabeth Cotton, an American blues and folk musician, who was born in 1893, played a show at Sweetwater not long before she died. She was in her 90's when she did the performance. Look up "Freight Train" on You Tube. That's the song I remember best. It will give you chills. Only Jeanie could have pulled off that special afternoon. I'm grateful to her for that and her friendship and I'll always miss her. Goodbye, Jeanie. It was good to know you. 

In my basement office

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Miami Vibes

After a long, rainy, cold winter there is nothing I adore more than a sunny, tropical getaway. This trip was a good impulse buy. We had some Alaska Airline tickets we needed to use, and when we booked in January the sun sounded so good. Little did we know that Northern California would receive an additional twenty inches of rain and 30 feet of snow. Numbers may vary, according to location, but you get the drift. In fact, it's still raining at home. 

This lounge chair, overlooking the ocean, feels like the perfect place to be. Miami is a fascinating blend of cultures, languages and styles. It's a bargain hunter's Hawaii. You can get an oceanfront room for half the cost. You also get to mingle with little old ladies with nose shields, loud old men from Brooklyn (complaining about the price of everything) and plenty of Russians. In the lower level of our hotel there was a gift shop, a barbershop, a pizza parlor, and, I kid you not, a synagogue. Chabad of Golden Beach. 

We all know Florida, the Snowbird State, is where grandparents go to die. If you buy a home here you must assume that at least one of the prior occupants has breathed their last breath on the premises. There's nothing like a peaceful ending to a long, well-lived life. One of my grandfathers died in my sister's home. That was very special. The other died in Florida. Obviously. 

As a child I took quite a few trips here to see my mother's father. We also visited my stepmother's family in Miami and the Florida keys. The last time I was here was when I brought Lucy to meet her great-grandfather. That was thirty-four years ago.

Eric was born and raised here, so for him, it's coming home. It makes him happy to remember his boyhood and the early morning paper route along the beach. The memories of your childhood places are so visceral. The light, the sound, the smells - it's all familiar. I feel the same way when I get off the plane in New York City. It's an unstoppable tumble through the tunnel of time. It's trippy and strange and wonderful.

The beach goers and hotel guests are very comfortable with their bodies. Let's just say that two-piece swimsuits are not reserved for the fit and buff. You can have a load of belly fat and still rock a bikini, or so you think. It’s kind of refreshing after the body-obsessed Bay Area. It reminds me of the beaches in Europe where the women go topless. Not surprising. It's a pretty international crowd here. 

I recently had a thought about body image that I believed to be rather profound. My idea was that young women strive to look good naked. They fight cellulite with a vengeance and work hard to be toned. When women get to a certain age, many of us just want to fit in, and look good in our clothes. And by clothes, I mean a one-piece bathing suit. 

Aesthetics aside, there are practical reasons for me to wear a one piece. Fewer places to apply and reapply sunscreen. We knew a kid in California who was bit by a shark when he was in high school. He went on to be an advocate for the sharks (and later an attorney) and wrote a book called, Don't Fear The Shark. I don't really fear sharks, but I do fear tropical sun. The worst burns of my life happened in Florida when I was a child. I remember painful, blistering shoulders. If we let a kid get burned like that these days it would be considered child abuse, but things were different back in the sixties. Now that I'm in my sixties I finally know better. Sunburns are no bueno. 

Our ostensible reason for the trip was the Miami Open tennis tournament. In a new, upscale venue at the Hard Rock Stadium, the tourney did not disappoint. We've done Indian Wells so many times it's begun to feel routine. Palm Springs can be great this time of year, but we love the ocean. Swimming in the Atlantic in the morning is such a treat. The white sand beach is beautiful, the water is salty and the waves are small and gentle. 

The best move we made was to go the ride sharing route, although I was not a fan of all the air fresheners. Renting a car would have been such a pain. It's twenty bucks a day to park at the hotel, forty at the stadium. That's not counting the cost of a rental car, gas and marital aggravation. You do the math. Über pool is über cheap here and they only let us down once. It was very congested leaving the stadium Friday night and the drivers kept canceling our rides before they arrived. Fortunately, we were able to share a cab back to the hotel with two Floridians and had an interesting conversation. One of our fellow passengers, a very pretty, fit woman asked, "How y'all doing with those taxes and politics in California?"  

Her friend added, "I hear you can kill a baby before it's born up in New York (pronounced "Jork")." Mind you she had recently moved to New Jersey and is managing a high-end real estate brokerage there. This little chat followed an experience I had sitting in the stands. As I talked with a beautiful, well-dressed, well-educated woman from India, I got quite an earful from a man sitting right behind us. In his Southern drawl he kept talking about "foreigners" . He opined that if Americans broke a string while playing they should be able to stop and get a new racquet, but if foreigners broke a string they should have to keep playing with the broken one. Which foreigners? Federer, Djokovich, Kvitova? I know I don't spend much time out of my bubble, but really? 

Most of the tennis-viewing crowd was knowledgeable, friendly and nicely dressed. These fans wore seersucker, pleats and a smattering of Lily Pulitzer. The grounds of the tournament were comfortable, clean and all brand new. Full sized vegetation was brought in. Palm trees and olive trees adorned the place and Stella Artois had a lounging area where you could nap on cushions after stressful, tiring matches. 

Two Canadian teenagers are the next big thing. Bianca Andreescu won Indian Wells a couple weeks ago, beating Kerber in three sets in the finals. We saw Bianca's first match at the Miami Open from the front row when she played Begu. It was so exciting. Andreescu was down a set and 1-5 in the second and had match point against her. She dug deep, fought off match point, won the tiebreaker and the third set. The kid is 18 years old. Supposedly Bianca meditates and visualizes herself winning. I wonder if it's too late for me to try that? 

The other rising Canadian is Felix Auger Aliassime. Eric's a huge fan and calls him FAA. Felix is also 18. He turned pro last year and is in the round of 16 at the Open. Thus far has zero titles, but he's a sensation and seems ready to break through. 

The food and drink were typical tournament prices. Who doesn't love an eleven- dollar hot dog and ten dollar beer? They had food trucks so there was nice variety. The same grounds passes were offered with access to multiple courts and practice matches. The colors were brilliant and vibrant. Very Miami. I loved the display of Lacoste baseball caps, but at sixty bucks a pop, I was content with a photo of them.

For some reason I didn't see the players and their coaches walking around like you usually do at these events. They must have come in through a rear entrance. A surprising number of tennis watchers brought children, toddlers and babies in arms and strollers. I've never seen that before at any tournament. It seemed like a strange choice given the heat. To each his own. 

All in all, I'd say the rollout was a success, although on our second day there was quite a line to purchase tickets. Tournament reps kept coming by insisting we could buy tickets online, but we were all trying it and failing to get through. The first day we bought grounds passes from a scalper in front of the stadium. They were twenty bucks and the guy took Venmo. Nothing could have been simpler. 

There was inconsistency in what you could bring in to the tournament. Only clear backpacks were allowed but some people had purses. On the first morning I needed to write up an offer for a client and managed to sneak my computer in, although signage said laptops were banned. The place definitely needed more charging stations. I lost my husband one evening because his phone died. I had to sit on the ground by a drinking fountain while I charged mine. 

Our last day in Miami was Saturday and we decided to swim and sun and then play tourist for the rest of the day. In the late afternoon we took a car to the trendy warehouse/art district where they host Art Base. Wynwood Walls was wonderful. It was a an inspirational feast for the eyes and I wanted to photograph everything. 

After we'd seen enough art we took another car to South Beach. It was week two of three consecutive weeks of spring break. Ocean Drive was closed, all the sidewalks were cordoned off and there were thousands of college kids, milling and strutting and peacocking about. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen or imagined. Fanny flossers are in style, as are sheer pants,  and more often, no pants. Just a lot of bare ass. There was so much nakedness my husband could barely keep his jaw off the sidewalk. One of his comments to me was, "I think there is a thong in there somewhere." 

What surprised me more than all the young adults, many of whom looked older than college age, was the police presence. Cop cars were lined up facing the beach and on the beach facing the shore with lights flashing. There were police boats in the water facing the beach and even a huge blimp above with the letters P O L I C E. The energy was cool while we were there, but I could imagine it getting tense later on. There was a lot of testosterone and hormones floating around. You could feel it. I hope the cops were decent. I hope the kids behaved themselves. Last year they set a lifeguard station on fire. 

We had an early dinner at an outside table at "A Fish Called Avalon". The meal was wonderful. The people watching was out of this world. After dinner we decided to get out of South Beach while the getting was good and headed back to our hotel. While we were gone there must have been a wedding, because right after we returned there were fireworks on the beach in front of our room. It was the perfect ending to our Miami getaway.